Jerusalem Day Loses Relevance
On May 25, a ceremony on Ammunition Hill celebrated “the day of Jerusalem’s unification.” Jerusalem Day is an annual memorial to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to liberate Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Days’ War. But does this day hold the meaning it once did?
“Some 39 years have gone by,” wrote Israel Harel, “and a pall of gloom now hangs over Jerusalem, and on other parts of the country too. The elation is gone. Not only is the Temple Mount not in our hands, but other parts of the city too are only formally under Israeli control, and, in fact, are no longer ‘in our hands.’ Israel’s capital is divided not only between Jews and Arabs, but between Jews and Jews. The sense that Jewish and Israeli identity would be weakened if Israel fails to retain a grip on its historic parts is diminishing. And the smaller the national and emotional solidarity with the capital, the smaller the desire to fight for its unity” (Haaretz.com, May 25; emphasis ours throughout).
Jerusalem’s importance to the Jews goes back centuries. Psalm 137 records: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
When East Jerusalem was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, there was a broad consensus among Israelis that their capital should never again be divided. A unified Jerusalem under Jewish control symbolized the fruition of Jewish hopes and dreams since antiquity. In 1980, Israel’s parliament enacted a law that declared Jerusalem the “unified and eternal capital” of the State of Israel.
Five years of Palestinian intifada changed all that. Five years of jihad and the Jews’ aspirations are shattered; the Arabs’ aspirations, hotter than ever.
The Jews’ capitulation was embodied in their election of a leader whose very platform was to divide Jerusalem. In what amounted to Ehud Olmert’s “victory” speech, he spoke directly to the Palestinian leaders: “We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved land of Israel …” (Reuters, March 28).
If we compare the national morale of the beleaguered Israel with the morale of the opposing force in the Middle East—the Islamic movement led by Iran—we get a good indication of what the future holds for Jerusalem.
Leo Tolstoy penned in War and Peace that the force of an army depends upon its size multiplied by “an unknown x.” That “x is the spirit of the army, the greater or lesser desire to fight and to face dangers …. The men who have the greater desire to fight always put themselves, too, in the more advantageous position for fighting.”
The biblical term for that unknown x is “pride of your power,” something of Israel’s that is prophesied to be broken in this end time (Leviticus 26:19).
Israel is a nation whose strength has been sapped and replaced with a spirit of defeat. Who could put it better than Prime Minister Olmert himself, who said during a speech in New York in June last year: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.”
If a people are tired of fighting—if they don’t think what they once held most precious is even worth fighting for—what are the chances of them holding on to that possession? How can such a people even survive—despite any military strength, or even nuclear capability? Add to that the fact that this nation is the enemy of perhaps the most determined, even fanatical, peoples on Earth, and the chances of survival become even slimmer.
“Now, after the victory in the Gaza Strip, we will transfer the struggle to the West Bank and later to Jerusalem,” Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Zahar, declared last year. “Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don’t recognize the State of Israel or its right to hold on to one inch of Palestine” (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 17, 2005).
This comment was echoed recently by the Iranian foreign minister, whose country leads the charge against Israel. When asked to comment on Israel’s call for economic sanctions against Iran, he retorted, “What country is that? There is no such country” (Haaretz.com, May 30).
Such a view from an enemy should be shocking enough. But the sad reality is that Israel itself, increasingly, is losing sight of its own identity.